I’ve been asked by a charity, Action Against Hunger, to help at a fundraiser in London next month. Not by handing round the canapés at dinner, nor by donating a signed set of Yashim novels, and certainly not by writing out a cheque.
Instead, we are going to auction off a character in my next Yashim story – the one provisionally entitled The Latin Reader. Guests at the gala dinner will be asked to bid to have their name – or the name of someone they love – presented as a player in the forthcoming tale of revolution and betrayal.
Here’s the link:
It’s not the first time it has been done, of course. The great Fay Weldon supposedly raised £18,000 by promising to mention the name of a famous jeweller 12 times in a novel called, guess what, The Bulgari Connection. Lee Child, the bestselling thriller writer, once told me that the name of a character in 61 Hours – the lady who’s always on the phone to Jack Reacher – was bought at a charity auction.
How far does it go? Was Mrs Dalloway in fact the wife of a wealthy industrialist? Or Ebenezer Scrooge: could he have been a generous philanthropist after all? Was Hercules Poirot an eighty-year old Belgian detective? Maybe not: maybe Agatha Christie simply hired him out, naming him after the bouncing newborn son of M and Mme Poirot, rich snail-farmers from Quimper?
My own small contribution to the genre does present me with a certain obvious challenge. Not many Ottoman pashas were known as John Smith, or Lavinia Hardy, or Ted Buxter, or whoever might be bidding on the night. Will there be any Turks at the gala? I could use an Italian, as it happens, and possibly an Irishman. But if the bid goes to, say, a Jade Hanratty or a Carol Martin…
But there you are. It’s often a good thing to write around a restriction. Who knows what role Sylvester Branksome-Pyke might play in 1840s Istanbul?
What fun to imagine…!